â€œAdapt to change to stay in business.â€ How often have we heard it? Yet, most would like to believe it applies to everybody elseâ€™s business rather than their own endeavors.
While in Amarillo this summer at the National Junior Show, the â€œ35 Years of Championsâ€ poster caught my attention. The poster featured a picture of each National Champion Junior Limousin heifer over the last 35 years. The change it represented regarding the kind of cattle you are making in this breed really hit home.
Each breed has old stereotypes associated with them whether they deserve them or not. This picture represented the great improvement the Limousin breed has made toward making the type and kind of cattle that work in todayâ€™s marketplace. After being involved in the commercial cattle feeding business the last 25 years and somewhat removed from seedstock cattle production, this picture was an eye opener for me. Traveling the country over the last eight months to different operations with Joe Epperly confirmed the same thing; breeders have done an excellent job making smart breeding choices to improve their cattle in an attempt to fit todayâ€™s cattle industry.
The advantages this breed has to offer are clear to us within the breed, but now is the time to get the word out. To the cow-calf sector, the Limousin breed offers advances towards making great females that have stayability, reproductivity and fertility while passing on superior performance traits to their progeny. The commercial cow-calf producer with British-based cows can see the immediate benefits heterosis provides from Limousin sires in production traits like weaning and yearling weights, not to mention cow longevity and reproduction. Superior feed efficiency traits that are paramount in the fed-cattle industry are just as important in the cow-calf sector. Moderate cow sizes with lower maintenance requirements that reduce annual carrying cost will continue to be emphasized in the future.
The fed-cattle industry can also benefit from Limousin genetics. Many are realizing the benefits of feeding more Limousin-influenced cattle for branded programs, where formulas are used within a grid, based on actual carcass results rather than cattle weighed live on a scale with a four percent shrink in a standard commodity class.
Limousin-cross feeder cattle excel in terms of feed efficiency, dressing percentage, yield grade and cutability. Those same advantages achieved from heterosis, that positively impact increased weaning weights and performance traits to the commercial cow-calf man, also bleed over into lower cost of gains at the feedyard where superior feed efficiency translates to higher average daily gains and lower dry matter conversion rates, which is really what feed efficiency is all about. The benefit of feed efficiency as it increases performance and ultimately lowers cost of gains is of vital importance in the cattle industry of today. High feed costs will most likely remain for the foreseeable future.
The packing industry is also seeing the benefits of these cattle added into their inventory. While managing feedyards, I had more than one major packer tell me how Limousin-cross feeder cattle excelled on the P&L sheets when hung on the rail. Pounds are dollars in this segment of the industry, too. Itâ€™s no secret Limousin-influenced feeder cattle can increase muscle scores and cutability when hung on the rail.
A key to success for a high percentage of the retail businesses is to sell quality pounds that have consistent eating quality. The reality of this means that a high percentage of cattle need to hit the Choice quality grade or higher unless they are headed to a health conscience market similar to Lauraâ€™s Lean. Like it or not, the payment method most packers still use to determine the check is based on three major factors, quality grade, yield grade and carcass weight.
No doubt, Limousin cattle have advantages in terms of tenderness and this is a trait that is desirable, yet marbling and its impact on carcass value as it relates to quality grade still takes precedent. The good news is this breed had the foresight to develop and promote the Lim-FlexÂ® hybrid several years ago. These cattle consistently grade Choice and have high marketability to the commercial cattle industry. The recent news of Walmart changing over their product line of predominantly Select products to Choice products should get the attention of all segments of the beef industry. When this occurred, the Choice-Select spread advanced quickly out to $18.00/cwt. This is occurring despite high feed cost of both concentrate and roughage feeds.
Realizing that nothing stays the same and improvement is a continual process, the Limousin breed should soon have enhanced tools at its disposal to make continued genetic improvement by being able to enhance the accuracy of their EPDs with the advent of genomic EPDs. The advancement the breed has made in docility is an example of how diligent selection and determined culling can result in great change. The ability to take advantage of this tool will not only help improve upon the traits Limousin cattle excel in, but make advancements on traits like marbling that have room for improvement.
In the near future, you will see new promotional literature to drive these positive influences home that can help impact the dollar return of cattle operations throughout the country. The Bottom Line publication will also be used to get the word out on the positive influence todayâ€™s Limousin cattle offer the beef industry, and the mailing will be targeted to users of the cattle and the genetics they offer that directly impact profitability.
Staying abreast of changing markets and satisfying consumer demands will be vital for future success and growth of the breed for the next generation of Limousin producers.